As a home-based editor, writer and designer, I spend lots of time in my yard -- I'm the sole landscaper, gardener and maintenance person for the front and back yards, not to mention two decks, one very long balcony and three patio areas. Oh, and a pool. So, it's nice to have someplace to sit in each of these areas to rest for a moment, survey the landscape and contemplate it, or set down some succulents I'm propagating and don't want to lose.
That's where a garden bench comes in. It doesn't have to be huge, nor does it have to necessarily have a backrest -- but its location and placement is integral. Of course, it's nice when the bench ties in with your landscape style or the architectural design of your home. Check out this photo gallery of benches -- some are works of art, while others are modest and serve a strictly utilitarian purpose. If you have a bench in your garden that you'd like to share, post it on the Pool and Patio Facebook page.
Photo © Lisa Hallett Taylor
As a powerful rainstorm is pounding Southern California, it's a good time to acquaint or refresh yourself on swimming pool and yard safety, no matter where you live. If you have a friend or relative who lives in an area that may be affected by a current or impending storm, or who live in a region prone to hurricanes or tornadoes, send them a link to this list of helpful articles on preparing your pool and yard before a hurricane or storm.
There's also information on what to do after the storm hits.
Planning a DIY outdoor project, hopefully with free designs? Thinking about switching over to a saltwater chlorinator for your pool? As February comes to an over-saturated (make that floods and freak tornadoes) end in my region, you can get those burning questions answered through one of my latest articles as your expert for About.com Pool and Patio:
- The Best Free Plans for DIY Outdoor Projects
- 10 Smart Reasons for Having a Saltwater Pool
- 20 Ways to 'Green' Your Pool or Spa
- Facts About Water Use
- The Best Free Garden Bench Plans
- Garden Benches: Ideas, Inspiration and Pictures
- What is a Cartridge Pool Filter?
- Pool Equipment: Getting to Know Your Swimming Pool
I have a banana tree growing right beside my swimming pool that's been there for at least a decade. Actually, the original one I planted produced bananas several years ago, then died - as they are predestined to do. Long before Mama Banana Tree started to show signs of aging, lovely young daughters, one or two at a time, sprouted near her trunk, ready to carry the torch.
Sometime late last summer, the largest of the trees produced that flowery protuberance that looks like Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors. Within a few weeks, the flowers had formed into fruits. Then started the months-long ripening process.
So, this morning, after a
deluge rainstorm, I looked out the window and noticed their time had come. Sorry, but it was nothing scientific or spiritual. The banana "stalk" was leaning over more than usual, and the bananas were yellow. Some were split. I clipped them with a pair of loppers and we now have our bumper crop of four homegrown bananas. Small, sweet, perfectly ripe. No bruises; no Dole or Chiquita labels.
Now we have to find a way to enjoy them all at once - maybe Bananas Oscar for the Academy Awards on Sunday night? Got a great banana recipe (other than banana bread)? Let me know - on the Pool and Patio Facebook page!
Photo of our poolside bananas during a more prolific year by Lisa Hallett Taylor
- More photos of poolside plants.
- More about banana trees.
- Messy plants you don't want near your pool
- Landscaping ideas for pool areas
While the snow may be piling up on the sidewalks outside The Philadelphia Convention Center, it won't stop the show from going on.
That's the 185th Philadelphia Flower Show, the largest indoor flower show in the world, and the United States' oldest home and garden show.
How old? Well, it started in 1829. To put it in perspective, that was President Andrew Jackson's first year in office, the year "American fashion designer" Levi Strauss was born and the year the typewriter was invented. That old.
The Philadelphia International Flower Show opens its doors to the public on Saturday, March 1st, and will continue to wow and warm attendees through Sunday, March 9th, 2014. The work of top landscape and floral designers are featured, and more than 10 acres of exhibit space have been transformed into a floral fantasy world with exotic plants and eclectic designs.
If you go to the show, be sure and let us know how it is on our Facebook page.
Philadelphia Flower Show photo courtesy of the PHS.
No doubt you celebrated the birthdays of George and Abe this past holiday weekend with cherry pie and sleeping in an extra day. But it might be a good time to reflect on the White House itself. Specifically, outside the White House -- where presidents and their families have played, entertained, relaxed and celebrated milestones.
Jimmy Carter built a treehouse at the White House.
It was the United States' second president, John Adams, who was the first to occupy the White House. Since then, each presidential family has left its mark on the outdoor living spaces of the executive mansion, whether it's been through planting trees and gardens or adding swimming pools and outdoor sculptures. At various times, the White House has had indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a hot tub, reflection pools, fountains, ponds and all sorts of patios, balconies, colonnades and porticoes.
Ready to take a tour of the White House grounds? Enjoy historical photos and a few surprises along the way. And enjoy your Presidents' weekend.
Photo courtesy: National Archives
While hot tubs packed full of friends consuming chips, bean dip and beer is definitely a Super Bowl thing, you definitely don't want that same crowd hanging in the hot tub on Valentine's Day
At least, you better not. On the most commercially romantic day of the year, do you really want to share an oversized hot tub with six other people in swimsuits?
With that in mind, and with Valentine's Day in less than 24 hours, I have the ideal gift idea -- a hot tub for two. Researching some of the leading hot tub and spa manufacturers' websites, it's clear that they've realized there's a market out there for smaller-sized tubs. Makes sense: smaller hot tubs are more economical, water-wise, space-saving and intimate.
Guess what? Some are even heart-shaped, saving you that long drive to the Poconos for a tub that many have splashed in before you. Check out this two-person hot tub gift list and make your Valentine relaxed and happy.
February is a good time to start thinking about your outdoor patio furniture. Like, is that old rump-sprung vinyl-strap chair beyond repair? Maybe it's time to consider a new piece, or a whole set, for that matter. In the patio world -- casual furniture market -- who's who and who makes what?
On the topic of outdoor patio furniture, I've sought and answered a several questions that have, no doubt, been keeping you awake at night. Like:
- What is marine-grade plywood
- What is shorea wood?
- Does metal lawn furniture have a history?
- What's the best way to care for wood garden furniture?
- What is wrought iron?
- What is cast iron?
- What is rattan?
Photo: Lisa Hallett Taylor
January has been a busy month at About.com Pool & Patio. While we're not exactly in the midst of pool, patio, bbq and get-me-out-of-the-house season, we're definitely gearing up for it in the next few months.
Now is a good time to get in some reading. Maybe you're planning a new pool project or need to make some repairs. We've compiled what is probably the most comprehensive list of books on pools and spas anywhere.
It's also a good time to think about what you want to plant near your pool, and avoid these messy trees, shrubs and vines. Yes, even if they're pretty.
Are you planning to put your house up for sale this year? Or are you tired or maintaining your pool? Ever wish you could just drain all the water out of the pool and fill it in? Some people do it -- discover some of the best reasons for getting rid of your pool.
Just think -- with that newly created space, you could plan an outdoor kitchen or a sunken patio with a new fire feature. We show you where to go shopping for the ideal fire feature in your outdoor space.
Enjoy the big game this weekend. If the weather is decent enough to fire up the grill, check out our amazing recipes from About.com's food experts.
Enough with winter already. I don't know about you, but I say it's time to bring on the home and garden shows. I want to see giant koi in ponds that I'd like to have in my backyard, and get more ideas for succulent container arrangements.
There are loads of patio, pool, home and garden shows scheduled pretty much every place it's spring (that would be in March). One I'd like to check out is the Antiques and Garden Show in Nashville, which is February 7th - 9th. Check out our list of home and garden, pool and patio shows and get busy planning your yard makeovers in the coming months. If you know of a show or event not on this list, contact us!
On the heels of the shows are the home and garden tours, which are later in the spring and summer. Take a look at our list for a tour near you.
Photo courtesy of Bringing Back the Natives tour, CA